This file is a collection of various messages having the common theme of felt tents,yurts and gers that I have collected from my reading of the various internet fiber lists, although they are primarily from the feltmaker's list. I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, most of the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter. The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors. Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the orignator(s).
Pat Spark, Manager of the Feltmaker's List.
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What is a Mongolian Ger? Can anyone give me a reference for a book or really comprehensive magazine article on the construction details on specific styles of Yurt(a)
Description of Linda Johnson's yurts. Does anyone know where the chij's (reed mats) go on the walls in relation to the felt? Inside of the felt wall, outside or both? Any info will be appreciated.
Rural Missouri Spinners'Guild builds a yurt. Does anyone out there have any favorite ways to make large flat pieces of felt for the yurt walls?
Plans for a yurt. Links to other pages about felt tents, yurts and/or gers.


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What is a Mongolian Ger.

*  Pat Spark, Jan. 28, 1996 :

Anyone living in the Denver area should try to see the great new exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It is on Mongolia. The majority of the exhibit is of Buddhist art and is quite beautiful. However, for me as a feltmaker, the most interesting part was the section on contemporary Mongolian life. There is a Mongolian ger (pronouced to rhyme with clear). This is their name for the yurt. There is an incredible interactive computer game, where you can actually see video footage of people laying out a piece of felt, wetting it down, rolling it and then pulling it behind horses. (I think it was horses, but I can't remember now. Maybe camels.) Anne Sneary, felter from Boulder, and myself spent over 1 1/2 hours playing with this game. We learned about Mongolian shamanism, celebrations rituals, children's games, etc. Even the order in which the ger is assembled.

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Can anyone give me a reference for a book or really comprehensive magazine article on the construction details on specific styles of Yurt(a)s?

* Pat Spark, Feb. 6, 1996.

There is a new book out called Tipis & Yurts: Authentic Design for Circular Shelters. 1995; 128 pp.; From: Lark Books.. I haven't seen a copy of it yet, but others who have say that the yurt is not traditional. In many books there are drawings of the yurt. In the new felting book I am translating from Swedish for Interweave Press, there is a large section on yurts.  (Sjöberg, Gunilla Pateau; NEW DIRECTIONS FOR FELT, AN ANCIENT CRAFT, Interweave Press, Loveland, CO, 1996 ISBN 1-883010-17-9)

This National Geographic is the one (I think) that shows the putting up of a yurt. Michaud, Sabrina and Roland; "Winter Caravan to the Roof of the World," pp. 435-465, National Geographic, April '72 or maybe it was in the March 1962 issue.

In these two books, Alexander Milovsky shows photos of yurts being put up:   KEEPERS OF BEAUTY (Book of Soviet Folkart), "Yurt Revival" P.126-135, Aurora Art Pub., Leningrad, 1983.    THE PURE SPRING, CRAFT AND CRAFTSMEN OF THE USSR, "In Nomads Land" P. 52-62; "Both Clothing and Bedding" P. 149-154; "Suzani" P. 155-160; Raduga Publishers, Moscow, 1987

Bill Coperthwaite has written about yurts. He is the founder of an organization for yurt builders in the USA. The Yurt Foundation; Dickensons Reach, Bucks Harbor; Machiasport, Maine 04655

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* Sue Pufpaff, Oct. 10, 1997

I have seen and reveiwed the Tipis and Yurts book by Morningstar and I found the plans for yurt making a little wanting. An alternative source of plans is a book I found by Chuck and Laurel Cox called "The Portable Yurt" When I purchased the book some years ago their address was Chuck and Laurel Cox, Tuckaway Farm, Box 57 Lee Road, Lee, Dover, New Hanpshire 03820 and the price was $15.00 pp.  (This address is no longer a viable one.)

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Description of Linda Johnson's yurts.
*  Lois Kelly, Feb. 7, 1996 .

I have a friend who owns two yurts from Mongolia. Her name is Linda Johnson from the Twin Cities, MN. Her yurt is made of wool that is felted of over 1" thick wool and bound with a decoritive band of "cotton" braid. This cotton braid proved to be a problem this summer when Linda displayed her yurt at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. When it rained the wool wicked the water very nicely but the cotton held the water (being next to the ground) and started to mold. I suggested turning up the last several inches so the cotton would wick to the wool and leave the fiber. It worked. The frame looks like a child's safety gate but is about 4 feet high. Tied to the top of this gate affair is a long flat stick with a curve at the top making the outer edge of the dome. In the very center is a very beautiful wood circle with criss cross wood pieces in the middle. All of the long flat support arms fit into cut out spaces in circle. The long flat support dome arms are beveled at the end to fit into this circle. The wool as long as the yurt is from the ground over the top (15-20 feet tall) to the ground on the other side. And the width is about 3-4 feet across. That's quite a piece of felt. Or maybe a flock of fleece! These long pieces are draped over and around the yurt with a bit of rope to hold them in the correct place. The top piece goes over the very top circle which can be opened as the weather permits or cook fire permits. It's like a big sky light with a long long long felted cover. Picture this: Linda came to our Big Island Rendezvous in Albert Lea, MN. There she set up yurt one completely and her second yurt frame so people could see how the construction worked. And she sat with crowds of people around her all the time she was spinning wool mixed with dog hair and rocking her very tired 4 year old. This Rendezvous was in the beginning of October. It was very cold and rainy. But inside the yurt it was dry tho needed a bit of propane for heat. The temp was at best 50 for a high and at night in the 30's. The problem with heat was that Linda had to keep the cotton edge folded up so the wind would blow in under the bottom. But the small propane made it very comfortable in the yurt. We gave Linda a cot so she could sleep off the floor and not have the wind blow in across her during the night. So you can sleep on the floor if it is not raining and you do not have cotton braiding. I almost forgot to tell you about the door. The door is made of wood is 5 feet tall and rounded at the top. It splits in two down the middle (top to bottom). Linda puts on a very nice display. You might want to check if she is coming to Convergence this year. Maybe she would bring her yurt as a felting display, she does a very nice job. I hope I've explained this ok it is hard to picture, but is certainly great to see and spend time in.

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Does anyone know where the chij's (reed mats) go on the walls in relation to the felt? Inside of the felt wall, outside or both? Any info will be appreciated.

* Pat Spark, March 9, 1996.

The chij are the sections of woven, steppe grass mats that go up on the outside of the lattice. The felts then cover the chij. These mats are also used to divide the space within the yurts of some people. For instance, the Khirghiz use a chij mat to divide the woman's side of the yurt from the man's side.

The chij can be really beautiful. In some cases, the pieces of grass are wrapped with colored fleece or yarn. When they are woven into the mat, the pieces of grass create an intricate pattern with their colored areas. This is similar in concept to how designs are created with weft ikat. The mats are woven using a twinning technique. There is no actual loom as we would think of it, but just a bar with the warps lying over its edge. Each warp is twice as long as needed for the weaving. The middle of the warp lies over the bar and each end of the warp is weighted. The pairs of warps are placed about one-hand's width apart. After the decorated grass is placed on top of the bar, the warps are picked up and the weight on the front warp is dropped over the back of the bar. The weight on the back warp is dropped over the front of the bar. This will create a twist if the sequence is always done in the same way. The steppe grass I have seen was also called chij by the Khirghiz woman who was weaving with it during an international felter's meeting in Hungary. The grass did not taper at one end, but seemed to be of an equal circumference for the whole length.

After seeing this chij mat be woven (and working on a simple chij, off to the side) I have thought that rattan reed could be used. A decorated chij made with reed would make a beautiful room divider or window covering. Someday!

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Rural Missouri Spinners'Guild builds a yurt.

* Kathleen Barger-Harbert, August 5, 1996.
Its official. The Rural Missouri Spinners guild has embarked on The RMS Friendship Yurt project. Our goal is to be able to have a yurt-raising at the World Sheep and Craft Festival at Bethel Missouri in 1997. We have a woodworker who will put together the framework for it and each member is going to contribute one 4 x 6 panel of felt decorated in any manner they wish. We plan to photograph, perhaps even videotape, the process along the way in order to make a booklet commemorating the project. The yurt and photos will be on display labor day weekend 1997 at Bethel if the board will grant us the space.

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Does anyone out there have any favorite ways to make large flat pieces of felt for the yurt walls?

* Annie Collard, August 5, 1996.
The May 1988 issue of National Geographic (page 561) tells how a Mongolian family constructs their yurt from a newly felted piece made by wrapping the wetted wool in a fresh yak skin and then wrapping it all around a large wooden pole and then dragging the whole parcel behind a horse for several hours. May not be too practical for your project, but it would be fun to try just once. The whole article is full of really interesting tidbits on various types of wool and felting. A good read.

*Pat Spark,  May 15, 1997.

Traditionally, the fleece for a ger is a coarse type, similar to Karakul. The fleece itself will determine the ease of making the felt walls for the ger as well as their quality. It might be your wool combination that is causing you the problems. But here is the way I have done, or seen done these large pieces of felt.  

1. Lay out a big piece of canvas.
2. lay out a large bamboo shade (sans the pulleys, of course)
3.For a rough look: Pick the fleece so that it is fluffed up and lay it out on the bamboo, about 8 inches thick (this is a guess, I don't usually work this way.)
4. For a smooth look: Card the fleece and lay out thinnish batts (about 3/4 inch) at right angles to one another. For a rug, I do about 9 layers. I wet the layers after I put on a few so that the stack is not so fluffy. (I use hot water which has a little soap added to it, about 1 tbls per quart.)
5. For an easier smooth look: Use carded batts on top and bottom and picked fleece for the middle of the "sandwich".
6. I cover the stack with mosquitto netting. (This is not traditional.)
7. Using a pan and colander, pour on hot/soapy water. I then flatten the stack to remove the air. (Also non-traditional.) If I have any designs to put on, I pick up the net and place them on the flattened, wet wool stack.
8. Traditionally, the felt and bamboo are now rolled up with a large pole (I use 2 inch PVC pipe). The bamboo/wool roll is then covered with the canvas, and the whole thing is well bound. The pole is long enough to stick out from both sides of the canvas covered roll. If felting with a horse, the pole ends are attached with ropes to the horse, and the horse is walked forward. The roll then turns, hitting against the ground which will begin the felting process. It is rolled for 1/2 to 1 hour and then unrolled. The design is adjusted. More hot water is applied and the stack is rolled from the other end. The process is repeated until the felt is hard enough to turn over. Then it is rolled from both ends (alternating) of the back side. Eventually, it is rolled with the forearms from the sides. This is just to give it a final fulling.
9. I have not had access to a horse when making felt. So, I leave the wet wool stack unrolled for awhile. I apply more soap gel, and work the surface of the wool with my hands, a Tupperware lid or my sander, depending on the situation. This helps the wool to begin forming a skin and helps the images to attach well before I roll it up. When the skin begins to form, I roll up the rug into the bamboo. I then cover it with canvas, tie it securely and with the help of a group of people, we foot roll it. This is hard to explain, but the roll is pulled along with a loop of rope and several people step down hard onto it, in unison, as it turns. Another way we have fulled it is to lay the canvas or terry towel covered bamboo roll onto a table and roll it back and forth with our forearms. The times are similar to those talked about in step
8. But I usually can't get a group of people to cooperate for a full hour, so we roll it stages of 15 minutes. Unrolling, rerolling from another direction etc. until done. This can take several hours for a thick piece of felt.

Hope this helps. Look in Gunilla's book, New Directions in Feltmaking, for pictures of Mongolian feltmaking.

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* Sue Pufpaff, May 15, 1997

I also am making the felt walls for a ger. The first item is, check the feltablitiy of your wool. IF the wool comes from sheep that are suffolk crosses, you are probably wasting your time trying to make it into a felt useable on a ger. Make a sample and see how it felts. The sheep that the Mongols use are more "primative" and are actually more like some of the two coated sheep breeds available here in the US like, Karakal, Navaho/Churo and Romonof (sp). If you want to completely cover a ger of any size, you will probably need at least 200 to 300 pounds of unwashed wool. Remember, you loose about 50% of the weight in dirt and oils in the carding process. Yes, spend the money to have to wool commercially carded into large batts. Any carding company which can do king size comfort batts can also do king size felting batts and these make the job of making sheets of felt so much easier. Just like with spinning, garbage in, garbage out when it comes to fibers. Felt will use shorter fibers than spinning and second cuts are not a problem but if the wool is extremely dirty or extra tangled belly wool, you are again asking for more trouble than you realy need in a felting project.

I have written up the direction for making blankets and rugs in the washing machine and this same technique can be used for making side panels for a ger. They are available for $2.00 and a SSAE. I currently have enough panels done to cover about 18 feet of side wall but I am still waiting for the lumber for my latice work. Good luck on your project.

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* Ruth Walker, May 17, 1997

Sara--Remember, the list owner said it would be all right to ask BEGINNER felting questions!!! Felting ger walls does not seem like a beginner project to me! However, I would suggest that you get a copy of "Felt: New Directions for an Ancient Craft" by G.P. Sjoberg (& excellently translated by P. Spark), Interweave Press, 1996, ISBN 1-883010-17-9. There is a tantalizing picture of dragging the rolled wool behind a bicycle to felt it!

Please, before you begin the walls, do do some much smaller projects with your wool. The type of wool makes such a vast difference in its felting ability, and I would hate for you to lay everything out and possibly have it not felt, or felt partially in clumps.

Pat Spark has suggested that as a first test of feltability, lay a very small amount of wool on your off-hand palm in 2 wispy layers that are criss-crossed, sprinkle with some detergent-fortified water to get it wet, press down to compact it, and begin to gently vibrate your strong hand on top the wet wool. Merino wool, for example (or any fibers blended with purebred merino, even only about 25%) will begin to felt within seconds, and as it begins to hold together then you can actually rub it, turn it over and keep doing that for a minute. If it is then holding together, rub the felt against itself quite vigourously. Suffolk wool (and its crosses) are notoriously poor felters, but may make it through the vibrating phase. During the vigourous rubbing they'll probably fall apart. For a large project you'll want to do a larger sample, if your wool has made it this far.

Sue Pufpaff has pointed out that shorter fibers will felt more quickly than longer ones, given the same fleece. Please sample your fleeces before you begin. The breed will make more difference than anything else.

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Plans for a yurt.

* Bill Reuther, Oct. 7, 1997

I sell detailed plans for 15, and 20' yurts. If youhave basic woodworking skills, the tools, and the time it is quite easy to do. I also make covers that one can buy, that will fit yurts made with my plans. Or you can cover it with felt!!! The plans cost $100.00. If you want to talk in person, I can be reached at 802-483-2899.

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Links to other felt tent/yurt/ger information sources
YurtQuest, General information on felt tents and their construction. Good links to other sources. They also have links to Yurt Plans. Yurt Plans from Monica Cellio of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Or try other SCA yurt information at:
Interactive Felt Ger Program produced for an exhibition on Mongolia life. Pictures of yurts, gers can be found at the following pages: (In Hungarian, with good photo of Center column supports of Mongolian Ger. (Some pictures of yurts.) (Largest Yurta in the world, found in Beshkek, Khirghizstan) (Interior of Uzbek yurta) (Life in a Yurt)

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